I can’t say for sure, that at least 500 voice, dance, and acting students have passed through my doors in the last fifteen years and the loudest voice in any of my lessons has been the voice of perfection. We’ve somehow created a society where we believe in order to be creative and successful we must be perfect.
Many of my students walk into their voice lessons and after two or three lessons, they expect there should be a major change in their sound or some will barely make a sound because they are convinced the sound they are making is not perfect. I tell my students to leave the room and re-enter without their buddies judgment and perfection. They look at me like I am crazy.
I have been blessed to have a lot of raw talent walk through my door. It has made teaching a blessing. But the thing I am battling with more than lack of talent, is this sense of instant progress after a month of lessons and the idea that some kind of perfection exists.
I chose not to have children of my own, but I have had five hundred or so children walk through my door mirroring guess who? ME. I hear parents talk about one of their children being their payback for how they were as children. I have students that cause me to teach what I most need to learn myself. It was pretty amazing for me to discover this. The teacher is the student and…..well you get it!
I wanted to be the best singer, the most perfect singer, the best songwriter writing the most perfect songs and I wanted it to all happen NOW! Ha! Ha! So funny. When I was a child discovering my creativity, I would sing, play piano, play guitar, and write little plays for no reason at all and just for the fun of it. I loved it. Every aspect of it. And then as I grew older and started to see and hear the “competition”, I began to shut down my voice and my own creativity because it wasn’t PERFECT.
Believe it or not, there are many “successful” singers, actors, dancers, artists who even after having achieved worldly success, still suffer from the perfection syndrome and not good enough. We are artists and no matter what level we are at, we can tend to lean in this direction.
Is it healthy? It depends. If it is self-deprecating and caused shutdown, no. I had a student who I just wasn’t sure had the voice to sing as a career. But her sense of perfection, comparison, competition moved her forward fiercely. Yes, she would cry at her lessons and struggled, but she wanted to be a performer so much that she worked harder than most any other student I had and today she is a professional performer. She turned that perfectionism into discipline and perseverance. On the other side, there are those students who had amazing voices at the start, who got stuck in the longing for perfection that it stopped them in their tracks. They couldn’t hear their own voice. It stopped their flow and their creativity.
It took me half of my life to get to the understanding that I didn’t have to be perfect. I just have to show up as the best me I can be, and I have to be willing to put my creative heart out there no matter what. We must be willing to do that. We must be willing to fall flat on our faces. To have a song with cruddy lyrics that nobody gets. To have your voice crack when you least expect it in front of 500 people but have people still applaud you because they heard and felt your heart and not perfection.
Being an artist is not for the faint of heart. A friend of mine that I knew in New York was a very talented actress, but she stopped one day and moved away from New York City. She said she couldn’t stand people telling her she wasn’t tall enough, short enough, pretty enough, too pretty, and she couldn’t take another no. I get it.
I often thought of myself as not strong especially after I received rejection letter after rejection letter from record labels back in the day. But I am strong. I am still singing, and writing songs, and telling stories. Am I perfect at it? I think not. Do a lot of people enjoy my music and feel inspired, and changed, and uplifted? Yes.
So to my students. If you love singing, acting, dancing, performing, keep showing up. Keep learning and make peace with the idea that you will never, never, never be perfect at it. Hopefully, you will grow, learn as much as you can, but more than all of that, enjoy and love your craft and your work as a craftsman.
The journey is the gift! I know, cliche. Sorry, but that’s what I’ve learned.
Show up fully!
Do it because you love it and can’t imagine doing anything else!
Be a perpetual student of your craft!
Be prepared and take pride in what you do!
Be curious and not critical!
Please share your thoughts about what you’ve learned about your creative process and journey!
Happy Trails All!